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420 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 


The public reading out of the Bible during divine service 
is an old institution, and certainly dates back to the time 
when the Jews and their Temple still existed in their native 
land. Like every other religious ceremony it had a small 
beginning, but it gradually developed till it assumed its 
present stationary form, round which has grown a compre- 
hensive code of rules. It is well known that the Palestinian 
Jews completed the reading of the Pentateuch — which 
formed the basis of the Scriptural lessons for the Sabbath 
and holidays — in a period of three years, whilst the Baby- 
lonian, and after them the European Jews, who followed 
these latter in every religious question, arranged the read- 
ing of the Law so that it should extend over only one year. 
This difference of proceeding must be as old as the rearing 
of Babylonian schools by Palestinian Rabbis, and is, indeed, 
mentioned explicitly in the Talmud (B. Megilla, 296). 
Although the majority of Jewish communities, as already 
noticed, adopted the Babylonian custom, yet we learn from 
the traveller Benjamin of Tudela, that in about the year 
1170 there existed in Egypt congregations who were Pales- 
tinian in this respect, namely, that their reading of the Law 
extended over a period of three years (ed. Ascher, p. 98). 
Shortly after this, in the year 1180, Moses Maimonides 
writes (jbtr\ niDbn, xiii. 1) that the custom of finishing the 
Law triennially was not by any means universal, from 
which it is clear that many synagogues must have adopted 
this style. Some time later Abraham Maimuni, the son of 
the forementioned, informs us in his TnDHSbN rPNQS (MS. 
Catalog. Neubauer, No. 1274, p. 56a) of the same fact, at the 
same time giving an account of differences that transpired 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 421 

in connection with other religious usages. Since these are 
unknown, it would not be amiss to quote the whole of this 
interesting passage. 

anntnpi dnnsibs ^d mban ••art manaa 7s absn ?s aa^i 

aHSbS ]d n231» a^tPiaffibS p WOS Sn^B TTTMTi ~)BD '•D 

absbs ^b^S a">am -msprn nDsn D^asia sn-*B -rep son 
aasibsi sasbsa asiabs sn^B abrosi nwrs (p. 56a) is 
Y2 -is'osi va^Yt sabs asips rod rrrea pnbsi -oaabsa 
?j? ntas anrrnp ]sb mom snppna sb asaDsb nsBasbs 
sbi anb ^arp ab dn-pab van -nbs ?sb sasi -iHBasbs 
n-sta ba ^ n-htaa ids asaDsb sasi -frr ••a nnpn ••a ypa 
tvs ba -rnsi bsna "«bs bnp ba r*ai iba ba ^a n^srai 
-voi t^-rpbsi nampbs ••a *ppibs *»a sa^n saa yh» ^sbros 
Tibs Tbabs mn -»3 -it sbi is-i la-o^i na>aa ab saa -jbt 
n-i»n sansins ismini&a ]sno^aa -rea nana sn^s ?na 
min -isD •'S nsnpbsi nsbsbs ^a sn^a anaabs ^psnsbsa 
snb ]sa ^astpbsa rpvn sann-osm abia mban "oa anaaa 
nana mm -ibd "<b mn ">a np* -rns bab sabsaa anaa 
■«3 mn "»q Dba^i nampbs ^d mn ^ ^yi -itd mn •'Bi 
sas ?sai n-pna ns^sta ••a HNbfiasbs 7a *fn -pai nampbs 
maDbs nb "reps rrYOi -is-itrsbs *it»i -frr naa^ bst nsa 
oy» bsb ^si *frr p n>anD^ n^ a^aan "«Tobn p rrnai 
sansi yc ?s siana nbs saa-rpn Vws ^a saabs nbs ?nai 
p nsa-oa sa msDab sVrssa nrot p n^a sana-r sab 
anaa 71a naasa bsavs natsbai n^n nsbsaaa bsanrcsbs 

" It is necessary that you should know that into the 
practices of the Jews, both as regards the prayers and the 
reading of the Law, many errors have crept from different 
sources. Some are due to the blunders of the heads of the 
congregation, which concerned the most important rules; 
others to the fault of the Chazanim, who either knew little 
or nothing at all. Hence the right became confused with 
the wrong, the necessary with those which had no basis 
whatsoever; the good customs with the reverse. These 
people silenced the learned men and the Dayyanim, and 

422 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

those who most vigorously led the opposition on grounds 
which I shall not attempt to examine, partly because they 
were not sufficiently powerful to give a practical effect to 
their opposition, and partly because what seemed clear to 
one was not at all convincing to the other ; nor could any 
blame attach to them on this account ; and also because the 
custom in all its details was not the same in every town, or 
indeed, in every congregation, many differences prevailing 
as I have explained in reference to standing in Kedusha 
and Kaddisch, and in even still more respects than I have 
mentioned. I have seen with my own eyes in the town 
where I live — Kairo — two recognised synagogues, one of 
which was known as the Babylonian, where the practice 
accepted by all Jews in prayers and reading of the Law 
was adopted; the other, the Palestinian, had a different 
custom, for whereas in the former the whole weekly portion 
was read every Sabbath, in the latter only a Seder was 
recited. Again, in the former place of worship, Kedusha 
was recited standing, in the latter sitting; and still other 
variations in many respects. My father and certain sages 
attempted to smooth away these divergences of Minhag, but 
to no purpose, owing to the efforts of the worst of men and 
others " {v. Hammanhig, p. 11). 

Makrizi, about 1440 (see Schreiner in Z. D. M. G. vol. 
xlv., p. 298), 1 mentions the existence of these syna- 
gogues. An Egyptian, Joseph Sambari, in 1672, also speaks 
of them (Neubauer Medieval Jewish Chronicles, p. 118); 
it is not quite certain from his words whether the custom 
still existed in his time, or whether he merely repeats the 
account given by Benjamin of Tudela. (The Synagogue 
was already destroyed.) This much is clear, at all events, 
that there existed in Egypt certain communities who 
adopted the Palestinian method of reading the Law. Gratz 
says (Geschichte VI., p. 285 2 ), that those who practised this 

1 It is extraordinary that the traveller, Meshullam b. Menachem 
(Lunz's Jerusalem, I., p. 166) says nothing about this, though he could 
have said much about the year 1441. * Cp. Monatsschri/t, 1869, p. 397. 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 423 

asage made their way from Palestine to Cairo in conse- 
quence of the persecution during the First Crusade. This 
cannot be verified. The fact, however, remains that there 
was a different reading in this town. Thus the solution of 
the problem as to what were the Haphtarahs according to 
the Palestinian practice could only be derived from docu- 
ments which emanate from Egypt. And, indeed, we find 
among the MSS. lately brought over from Egypt to the 
Bodleian, one — to which my attention was called by Dr. 
Neubauer — which enumerates the Haphtarahs of the first 
seventy portions according to the Triennial Cycle, and gives 
us some knowledge of a hitherto obscure subject. 

We must attribute the more value to this fragment since 
it is extremely probable that it comes from the above- 
mentioned Synagogue, and is of considerable antiquity. 
Before, however, we proceed to a consideration of the por- 
tions of the Prophets, it is necessary to give an account of 
the Pentateuch readings from their origin. The sources of 
information at our disposal are the Talmudic and Midrashic 
works of Jewish tradition, which have not been taken 
sufficient notice of in respect to the development of this 

The Development of the Pentateuch Readings. 

Tradition assumes three stages in the development of 
the custom of the reading of the Law ; the first is connected 
with Moses, the second with the Prophets, and the third 
with Ezra. It is well known that tradition has ascribed 
to Moses and Ezra many institutions, whose origin, dating 
back to ancient times, was already forgotten. To Ezra 
especially is attributed all that pertains to the reading of 
the Law and the arrangement of the Liturgy. It is possible, 
because of the circumstance that tradition itself assumed 
a development, to establish firmly the origin and historical 
progress of this custom. 

The Sifra to Leviticus xxiii. 43 infers from the verse, 

424 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

"And Moses declared the festivals of the Lord to the 
children of Israel," that Moses taught on each festival 
those laws which are special to it. The same conclusion 
is drawn in other language in the Sifre to Deut. xvi. 1 : 
" Moses said, Take notice to read and explain the festival 
portions (of Holy Writ)." From this passage we infer that 
the introduction of the reading out of the Pentateuch had 
its origin in the festivals, and we see also that tradition 
supposes several stages of development in the institutions 
of Moses, inasmuch as the festivals only are mentioned in 
this passage of the Sifre. What was really the occasion 
of this first reading ? It is not necessary to mention that 
the first trace of the public reciting of the Law is in 
Nehemiah viii. 8, for it does not speak of a lasting in- 
stitution, which must belong to a later date. It is this 
latter which claims our attention. It seems to me that 
it was the Samaritans who gave the occasion for the 
first step. We know that they were the religious as 
well as political opponents of those Jews who returned 
from exile. They showed their religious animosity chiefly 
in their deviation from the ordinary explanation of those 
portions of the Pentateuch which concern the festivals. 
They were not satisfied with holding a passive opinion, 
but tried hard to procure an acceptation of their par- 
ticular views (Geiger, Z.D.M.O., Vol. xx., p. 540 ff.). The 
people had to be taught by the Palestinian scholars how 
to meet their attack ; this could not be better achieved, 
or in a simpler manner, than by reading and explaining 
the disputed passages in the Pentateuch on the Festivals 
themselves which had been made the subject of contro- 
versy. The time when this happened may be approxi- 
mately determined. Josephus {Antiquities XIII. iii. 4) tells 
us that the Samaritans in Egypt about 140 B.c. received 
permission of the king to enter into public disputation 
with the Jews. Gratz (Geschichte iii., 4 p. 44) is of opinion 
that this desire was aroused in consequence of the Septua- 
gint translation, which did not take into consideration 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 425 

the Samaritan misreadings of the Pentateuch. It is also 
possible to assume that this disputation was an opportunity 
for the bursting forth of a hatred which had held out a 
long time in Palestine without having produced a dispute. 
Again, Sirach in his preface informs us (v. Philo, De Somniis 
II., 18 ; cp. Gratz, he. cit, p. 42), 1 that already in the second 
century B.c. the Egyptian Jews had as a permanent insti- 
tution the public reading of the Law, with all accessory 
expositions, and since all the religious observances were 
borrowed from Palestine, it follows that the Jews in this 
latter country, at about 200 B.C., must have already intro- 
duced this practice. 2 The opposition of the Samaritans 
was directed to the institution of the Passover as to whether 
it really depended on the time of the year, the exposition 
of the phrase ratpn mn»» in Leviticus xxiii. 15, and 
the Lulab used on Tabernacles. The Pharisees, as is well 
known, explained the words, " the day following the Sab- 
bath," that on the second day of Passover the first sheaf 
has to be brought ; from that date seven weeks were 
counted, and on the fiftieth day — the same on which 
the second day of Passover fell — and which is the 
sixth of Sivan, the festival of Shebuoth was celebrated. 
On the other hand, the Samaritans and Boethusians con- 
tended that by rote is meant the ordinary Sabbath which 
occurs in the Passover week. Consequently the Omer 
should be brought on the Sunday, and on the eighth 
Sunday the festival of Shevuoth should take place, the day 
of the month being variable. Just as literally did they 
explain the law regarding the Lulab, and also the date 
of the Passover holidays (Geiger, loc. cit., p. 544). Thus 
the controversy concerned all the three festivals (men- 
tioned in Leviticus xxiii.), on which tradition assumes the 

1 Philo (loc. cit., p. 168, 130) agrees with Josephus in ascribing to Moses 
the introduction of Law-reading only for Sabbath and Festivals. See Ber- 
liner's Magazin, vii., p. 66. 

* For Philo's articles on Divine Service vide Schurer, Gesehichte des 
Jiid. Volkes II., p. 376. 

426 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

first reading of the Law to have occurred. Tradition 
moreover bases the introduction of the custom on the same 
chapter. The expression W7\p W)p», which is used in refer- 
ence to a festival, may have been taken by those teachers 
who introduced it as a Biblical warranty for this new rite, 
inasmuch as they may have paraphrased it to mean, 
" holy reading out of the Torah " (Hamburger, Heal 
Encyclopadie II. ; article " Vorlesen " ; Friedmann, Beth Tal- 
mud III., p. 6, ff.). 

Tradition also refers back to Moses the reading of the 
Law on the four special Sabbaths in the months Shebat 
and Adar (v. Tractate Sopherim xxi. 4) ; and here also it is 
possible to discover the period of its introduction. The 
commencement of the so-called Chronicle of Fasts (Ate- 
gillath Ta'anith) reads as follows : — " From the 1st to 
the 8th of Nissan it is prohibited to fast, because during 
this time the question concerning the daily offering was 
determined. No public funeral oration should be delivered 
during these days, because the Sadducees asserted that 
this offering should be brought as a free-will sacrifice by 
every individual. They base their opinion on Numbers 
xxviii. 4, 'Thou shalt bring each of you a lamb,' where 
the verb is expressed in the singular, and signifies an 
individual. Against this view the sages declared : ' This 
is not the correct interpretation of the quotation in 
question, for the only method of bringing a congregational 
sacrifice is by general contribution.' Then the sages, when 
they gained the upper hand, ordered that Shekalim should 
be collected and placed in the temple, which shekels should 
be used to defray the expenses of the daily offering. The 
eight days during which the controversy lasted were to be 
celebrated in future as half-holidays." Thus far the 
Chronicle. We know that this event took place 79 B.C., 
and since the Talmud enumerates other institutions which 
owed their origin to this victory of the Pharisees, we can 
assume with much probability that the reading of the 
portion of Shekalim was introduced in order that the 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 427 

people should have adequate knowledge of the disputed 

Nor did the controversy between the two parties rage 
only in respect to the Shekalim, but also the ceremony of 
the Red Heifer formed a subject of strife. 1 The portion 
which treats of this subject is also read on one of the four 
special Sabbaths. 

On another of these Sabbaths is read the passage deal- 
ing with the declaration of the New Moon of Nissan. This 
also formed an object of dispute to these religious sects. It 
is probable that the fourth Sabbath, called tdt after the 
first word in Deuteronomy xxv. 17, had its origin in this 
quarrel, inasmuch as the Pharisees impressed on the people 
the necessity of avoiding Hellenism in all its forms by 
alluding to the enemy whose customs the Hellenistic Jews 
adopted. This action was directed against the leaning of 
the Sadducees to Greek habit and culture. 

A third tradition carries us still further in the his- 
tory of the development of the Pentateuch readings. It 
informs us in connection with the citation of Leviticus 
xxiii. 44 (Jerushalmi Megilla, iv. 1) that Moses introduced 
the reading of the Law on Sabbaths, on festivals, New 
Moons, and Half-holidays (v. Tractate Sopherim x. 1). We 
have already seen, what occasioned the reading on the 
festivals. In respect to the Sabbath there is no need to 
inquire after a special historical origin, for it was merely 
an extension of the custom that had already been estab- 
lished on the festivals and the four Sabbaths. It must 
have been introduced before the Christian era ; for the 
Apostles (Luke iv. 16 ; Acts xiii. 15 and xv. 21) mention 
the reading on every Sabbath as an established rite. 
Again, Josephus (Contra Apionem ii. 18) 2 ascribes the inno- 
vation to Moses, from which it is clear that it was for 

' Geiger, Ursohrift, p. 134. Lerner in Berliner's Magazin, x. p. 143. 

* oi)K ifaawaZ aKpaaaapivoc ovdk Uq t) jroWacif aW i/cuartjc i/SioitdSog 
ruv aXXwv tpywv aiptfiivovc, it* rijv atpoaaiv rov vojtov UiXivot ovWiytaBai 
cat tovtov aKpipiSs iKftav0avtiv. 

428 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

him an ancient institution, and one in vogue before the 
common era. The expression amp N"ipO in Leviticus 
xxiii. 3 gives us a warranty for this introduction, yet the 
phrase is not found in connection either with the Half- 
holiday or New Moon. If, however, we examine the Me- 
chilta (to Exodus xii. 14, 17 ; xiii. 6), we find that it estab- 
lishes the conclusion that the middle days of the feasts 
are called t»Tlp K"ip». Add to this the fact that these 
days as well as New Moon are included in Numbers 
xxviii. and xxix. among those occasions on which a 
Musaph offering is to be brought, and are considered as 
festivals, and the introduction of Torah readings on these 
occasions becomes intelligible to us. 

The reading on Saturday afternoon and Monday and 
Thursday mornings is in the Mechilta to Exodus xv. 22, 
ascribed to the Prophets (see Weiss and Friedmann on 
this passage) and in Jerushalmi Meg. iv. 2 to Ezra. This 
institution is at any rate of a later origin than those 
already mentioned, since tradition assigns it to later au- 
thorities than the others. It probably originated in the 
time of the first Tannaim, after the destruction of the 
Temple, when every opportunity was seized to acquaint 
the people with a knowledge of the Law. Monday and 
Thursday had already been set aside as Court days from 
ancient times. In the Jerushalmi (loc. cit.) this institution is 
attributed to Ezra. On these days the villagers used to 
assemble in the towns, and consequently the Law was read 
on Monday and Thursday in preference to other week 

Before we treat of the extension of the custom to in- 
clude Chanucca, Purim and the fast days mentioned in the 
Mishna {Megilla, iv.), without naming the originators, it is 
necessary to set forth those passages which were read in 
synagogues on the festivals and Sabbaths which we have 
already dealt with. We saw that the opposition of the 
Samaritans, which was the cause of the introduction of 
the festival readings, applied to many verses in Leviticus 

The Triennial Beading of the Law and Prophets. 429 

xxiii., so that it follows that on each festival portions were 
selected to be read out of this chapter. The Mishna (Jfc- 
gilla iii. 5) established this as a law by enacting that Levi- 
ticus xxiii. 4 should be recited on the 1st day of Pesach, 
ver. 23 on the New Year's Day, and ver. 33 on Tabernacles 
(v. Miiller, Tractate Sopherim, p. 242). For Shebuoth and 
Yom Kippur, however, it selected Deut. xvi. 9, and Levit. 
xvi. 1 respectively, that is to say, the selection was not 
in these cases from Leviticus xxiii., and this fact needs 
explanation. From the fact that the Mishna endorses our 
view in three cases, we infer that originally the readings 
for the two above-mentioned feasts were also taken from 
Leviticus xxiii. ; in the course of time, however, a change 
was made in the Pentateuchal lessons, the nature of which 
we shall now proceed to consider. 

We notice that even the readings which the Mishna 
ordained should be chosen from Leviticus xxiii., gradually 
lapsed in the Synagogue, others taking their place. Again, 
we see that an altogether new festival lesson is introduced, 
a Boraitha (B. Megifla, 31a) naming Exodus xiii. as the 
portion for the 7th day of Pesach. Although this latter 
festival is designated B?"T1p Hnpa, yet neither the Mishna, 
nor Tosefta, nor Palestinian Talmud, assigned to it a special 
reading. The reason for this omission is clear from what 
has already been said. This festival had no importance in 
the controversy that ensued between the Samaritans and 
the Pharisees. Consequently no public explanation of any 
particular text was deemed necessary, so that originally 
there was no Torah recitation on that day. Yet why was 
Exodus xiii. chosen later on ? Was it because tradition had 
it (Mechilta on this passage) that the passage through the 
Bed Sea took place on this day; that, therefore, the 
portion of the Bible which described that incident was 
chosen as the lesson ? And granted that this is so, is this 
no new stage in the development that such pieces should 
be selected as commemorate an event that happened on 
the same day ? Let us add to this what the Babylonian 

430 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

Talmud (Megilla, 31a) has to say on this subject, namely, 
that the Babylonian Jews read out of Leviticus xxiii. on 
the 1st day of Pesach, and yet on the 2nd day from Exodus 
xii. Both Pesiktas also enact that both these pieces should 
be read as festival portions, though in reverse order. Now 
we ask, How is it that this second portion was chosen, 
if it were not in commemoration of an event that hap- 
pened on that day ? Further, we see that the Tosefta 
(Megilla iii. 6) gives Genesis xxi. as the New Year reading 
in place of that given by the Mishna and Tractate Sqpherim 
(xvii. 6), namely, Leviticus xxiii., which, however, though 
only cited by the Tosefta with the formula, " Some 
say," must be considered as the original. The Boraitha 
(Megilla 31a), the Talmud (J. Megilla iii. 7), and both Pesik- 
tas give these two portions, declaring the Genesis reading 
to be the first. Here we must emphatically ask, Where is it 
explicitly stated in the Bible that Sarah was remembered on 
New Year's day ? What led the Aggada to make such a 
statement ? Should we not rather thus explain the matter, 
that independent of any purpose, this portion was read on 
New Year, and on this account was it that the incident of 
the birth of Isaac became associated with that festival ? Yet 
why was this part of the Law recited on so solemn an occa- 
sion ? A simple way out of the difficulty is supplied by a 
consideration of the triennial reading of the Law, which 
must undoubtedly be presupposed in Palestinian sources, 
in the Mishna, Palestinian Talmud, the Boraitha and the 

As is well known, the Masora enumerates 154 divisions 
in the Pentateuch, called Sedarim, which Rappoport 
(mp mybn, p. 11) already recognised as the Sabbath 
readings of the triennial system. 

This conjecture is supported by the fact that paragraphs 
of the Midrashic- works of Palestinian origin are connected 
with these Sedarim, so that each portion was arranged for 
its special Sabbath, and formed the groundwork of the 
Midrashic discussion in the Synagogue. (Rappoport in Erech 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 431 

Millin, article NmtaSH ; Derenbourg in Manuel du Lecteur, 
p. 530 ; Miiller in Tractate Sopherim, p. 221 ; Theodor in 
Gratz's Monatsschrift, year 1885, p. 356.) 1 We must also 
take into account the imperfectly preserved "Aggada to 
Genesis " (Jellinek : Beth Hammidrasch, IV.), which shows, 
not only by its Pentateuchal, but also by its Prophetical 
passages, that it supposes a triennial system of reading the 
Law and Prophets. 2 The number 155, which the Midrash 
also mentions {Esther Rabba I.), can scarcely be brought 
into question (v. Friedmann in Beth Talmud, III.) ; and yet 
three other computations are cited against it. The Yemen 
grammar, known as the Manuel du Lecteur, giving a de- 
tailed list of the Sedarim, enumerates 167, which are too 
many for three years, as at most these can only comprise 
161 Sabbaths. The great Massorite, Menachem Meiri 
(died 1306), in his work, "ISO rmp, under the head of 
D^atPH-in nu, reckons 161 divisions in all, which 
correspond to the greatest number of Sabbaths possible 
in three years. Against this we have the number 175, 
mentioned by the Tractate So/erim (xvi. 10), supported by 
the Talmud (J. Sabbath, I., 1), as the total of the Penta- 
teuch divisions. This, however, cannot be justified. The 
explanation of Solomon Algazi (Zunz, Oottesdienstliche 
Vortrage, 3 p. 3, note /), that this enumeration corresponds 
to the number of Sabbaths in three and a-half years, since 
the Torah was read through twice in seven years, is very 
tempting. There is, however, no mention of this custom 
in the ancient sources. The Talmud, indeed (B. Meg. 
29b), says explicitly that the Torah was in Palestine read 
through in a period of three years. Granted, now, that 
the figure 175 is the result of an interpolation — which, 
indeed, is extremely probable (Frankel's Zeitschrift, year 
1844, p. 357) — the question in reference to the other three 

1 Cp. Epstein, DH1HM nVJIOnpD, p. 57. 

2 Theodor, loc. eit., p. 405. 

3 Epstein, loc. eit., p. 59. 

432 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

opinions is not yet settled, since the attempt has not yet 
been made to discover what really were the portions read 
on particular Sabbaths in accordance with the triennial 
method. Since it has now been determined that the 
Midrashic works, on account of their Palestinian origin, 
proceeded on the basis of a triennial cycle, the system 
of the ancient readings can only be gathered from these 
sources. The most important question to decide is, When 
was the reading of Genesis commenced ? and also that 
which goes naturally with it, When was the reading 
of the Pentateuch brought to a finish ? The divisions, 
according to the annual system adopted by the Samari- 
tans, Babylonian Jews, and Karaites, commenced with the 
last Sabbath in Tishri, from which it might have been 
inferred that this also was the first Sabbath among the 
Palestinian Jews. This, however, is very doubtful, since 
it is nowhere stated in the Babylonian Talmud that this 
formed the starting-point in the time of the Amoraim. If 
we divide, first of all, the 155 Sedarim into three parts 
corresponding to the three years, we find that thej' are 
Genesis i. till Exodus x., Exodus xi. till Numbers vi., 
Numbers vi. 22 till Deut. xxxiv. Let us notice first the 
third part, so as to discover when the cycle terminated. 
The first portion of the same includes the priestly bless- 
ing, and the offerings of the twelve tribal chiefs after 
the erection of the tabernacle. Tradition assumes, on the 
basis of Exod. xl. 2 and Levit. ix. 22, that both of these 
took place on the 1st of Nissan. Was it not natural that 
the Sabbath lessons should be so arranged that this por- 
tion should be read on the first Sabbath in the month of 
Nissan ? It follows from this, naturally, that Deuteronomy 
xxxiv. must have been read in Adar, so that the Penta- 
teuch could be recommenced on the 1st of Nissan. Now 
we know that in Adar there were three special Sabbaths 
on which certain specified portions were read peculiar to 
these days, so that the reading of the Pentateuch must 
have been brought to an end on the first Sabbath in Adar. 

The Triennial Beading of the Law and Prophets. 433 

That this really was the case is evident from this striking 
Aggadic passage. The Mechilta to Exodus xvi. 35 reads : — 

rrrca ma nns yan n« ibsN nv a^ms -ibis wdmv "o-i 
by> b-hkwi mms laaa lb^si -n«a nsntw na na?a "Tjro 
••mian -itsbs '"i • a^rns nn p">a bt» nws nttrcn -ns bar 
nt&a tto rroa bt» vwa -ins jan ns lbas av> a^arc -ibis 
-ns bt» a^ nsa-isi antro laaa lbosi -nsa nj?2t»n na 
nt&an ni-vn -na» nat&tt ^t»n -ns b» a^anbttn pt&s-in 

ib^S BV B"»»B» IBIS "Wbs "31 B"»»2t» nn p^a bt» -)t»& 

nsarca na nana tto rwa ba; mn^a -ins pn ns bs-w 

B^lblM B3t» b» BiB"' n»2"Kl UnWV 13BB lbDSl B2t»2 

• ipta b» -IH7S mow) maws nn*n sb naa? nnisi tin ba? 

" R Joshua says the Israelites ate of the Manna forty 
days after the death of Moses, for he died on the 7th Adar, 
and the twenty-four days of Adar and sixteen of Nissan 
(Joshua vi. 11) together make forty. R Elazar, opposing 
him, is of the opinion that they ate of this food seventy 
days after their leader's death, since it was a leap year, 
and, therefore, contained thirty days more. Rabbi Eliezer 
quotes seventy as the number, since, in his opinion, Moses 
died on the 7th of Shebat, the tale of days between this 
date and the 16th of Nissan being seventy." 1 One must 
feel greatly astonished at this vivid imagination of the 
Tannaim, and one cannot help finding it odd that they 
dispute about a date which has not the least founda- 
tion in Holy Writ. If, however, we remember that 
the portion in which the death of Moses is described, 
Deuteronomy xxxiv, was always read about the 7th of 
Adar, we at last come to understand how it is that this 
peculiar date was taken. The reckoning of this death-day 
was made in a year in which the 7th Adar fell on a Sab- 
bath, which was not always the case ; therefore is it that 
we find different accounts, fluctuating between the 6th, 

1 I quote this passage from the edition of Friedmann, which preserves 

the third portion— omitted by Weiss— on the authority of theYalkut. The 

MS. in the Bodleian Library (Catalogue Neubauer, No. 151) has it also ; 

and, in addition to these proofs, it is otherwise thoroughly authenticated. 

VOL. V. E E 

434 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

7th, and 8th, as the correct date of Moses' death (v. Weiss 
on this passage and Seder Olam, ch. x.). 

We shall return later on to the opinion of R. Eliezer, 
who placed the day as the 7th Shebat. We are now 
in possession of the exact dates on which the Torah 
reading was begun and finished, and we need only inquire 
whether the readings of the first two years fall in 
line with this arrangement. We found that Exodus xii. 
formed the opening chapter of the second year of the 
triennial cycle. Now the first verse of the chapter reads : 
" This month shall be unto you the first of all months," 
and orders that Nissan should be counted as the first of the 
months. It is hardly necessary to point out that this 
lesson was proper to and suitable for the first Sabbath of 
the month Nissan. The first reading of the first year, 
Genesis i., is also perfectly consistent with this view ; for 
we see that, in the opinion of R. Eliezer, the world was 
created on the 1st Nissan (B. Rosh Hash., 106). In order 
to give a detailed explanation of every one of the passages 
in the triennial cycle, it is necessary to give an account 
of the further division of the Sedarim. 

I commence with the second year, as here we have at 
our disposal a good many statements to help and guide us 
in our investigations. In the same passage of the Mechilta, 
wherein the death of Moses is so exactly determined, the 
Aggadist dogmatically asserts that the exodus of the 
Israelites from Egypt took place on Thursday, the 15 th 
Nissan (v. Seder Olam, cap. x.). Let us examine such a 
year, in which the 15th Nissan fell on a Thursday, as an 
example of our division, and let us follow the Aggadist's 
dates also in the arrangement of the Sedarim. Since in 
that year the 1st of Nissan was on Thursday, the first 
Sabbath must have been the third of the month. On this 
day, as already stated, Exodus xii. 1 was read. In the 
third verse the command is given by Moses to have the 
Pesach Lamb ready by the 10th of Nissan. This day was 
a Sabbath, which was called "the great," on account of 

The Triennial Reading of the Laic and Prophets. 435 

the miracle mentioned in the Mechilta as having been per- 
formed on that day. The carrying out of the command 
is described in xii. 21, which is, in accordance with my 
view, the portion of the second Sabbath. The same Agga- 
dist remarks on xiv. 2 that the Israelites who went out 
from Egypt on Thursday, encamped at Ramses on Sab- 
bath, 17th Nissan, on which day, therefore, xii. 37 was 
read. In xiv. 9, he comes to the conclusion that the 
passage through the Red Sea occurred on Wednesday the 
21st of Nissan, and therefore Exodus xiv. 9 was read on 
this day, the 7th of Pesach. If we examine this result in 
the light thrown by the Mechilta on this subject, we are 
furnished with the solution to the question propounded 
above, What was the occasion of the reading of Exod. xii. 
29, on the 1st day of Pesach, and xiii. 17, on the 7th ? The 
answer being that these passages were regularly reached 
on those occasions. When, later on, it was seen that these 
two Sedarim were well suited to these holidays, they were 
established, even when the three years' cycle was not in 
vogue, as the ordinary lessons of those days. 1 Let us 
follow the same authority further. It is stated in xv. 22 
that the Israelites, after passing through the sea, wandered 
three days in the wilderness, and found no water till they 
— according to the computation of our exegetist — came to 
Marah on Sabbath, where the Sabbath Law, among others, 
was enunciated. Hence we infer that xv. 22 was the 
reading for the fourth Sabbath. A second tradition {Seder 
Olam, cap. v.) endorses this view by declaring that the 
Israelites came to Rephidim on Sabbath, 29th (according 
to the Mechilta, the 28th) of Iyyar. Our Aggadist tells 
us in reference to xvi. 1 that the 1st of Sivan fell on 

1 It seems that in Palestine the fourteenth chapter was read only till 
verse 29th, and that the following portion commenced with J?CV1, which 
explains the Midrash of the same name. Tradition also has it (Seder 
Olam, v.) that the crossing over of the Bed Sea happened at evening, 
whilst the JYYSf was sung on the following morning. It is more probable 
that the festival reading itself began with JTCW1. 

E E 2 

436 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

Sunday, and the Revelation on the 6th, Friday ; further 
he says, on xix., that the first verse speaks of the New 
Moon, so that we have here the reading for the first 
Sabbath in Si van. 1 

With the help of the Mechilta, which, on account of the 
date explicitly given in Exodus xvi. 1, is only of par- 
tial assistance to us, we can assign to the five Sabbaths of 
Iyyar the text from xvi. 1 to xviii., which gives the four 
portions — xvi. 1, 28 ; xvii. 1 ; xviii. 1. For the 1st and 
8th of Iyyar, the verses that treat of the incident of the 
Manna thus formed the Pentateuchal lessons. 2 

For the 29th of Iyyar, in such a year as is cited by 
the Mechilta, wherein Iyyar has five Sabbaths, there 
remains xix. 6. On Shebuoth then the Decalogue was 
read, which gives us the reason why this portion later on 
was always chosen as the lesson for Shebuoth. It followed 
simply from the fact that in the second year of the cycle, 
in the ordinary course of reading, this portion was reached 
at this festival, and was then carried over to other years. 3 

1 Seder Olam, v., agrees with all the accounts given in the Mechilta, 
with the trifling exception that it makes the exodus from Egypt happen 
on Friday, and consequently the Revelation on Saturday. Yet the MS. 
Catalogue, Neubauer, No. 692, is in total agreement with the Mechilta. 
For us, this difference is of little import. At any rate, this fact is apparent, 
that, like the death of Moses, it admits of various dates, which, however, 
are all confined to the same week, since it is connected with the weekly 

2 It is stated (vi. 4) in the Gospel of St. John, which gives compara- 
tively exact dates, " Pesach, the feast of the Jews is near," and in vii. 2, 
" Tabernacles is drawing near." Between these two dates there is a 
sermon on the Manna, which — according to vi. 59, " he said this in the 
Synagogue when he was teaching in Capernaum," — was delivered on 
Sabbath, and was probably connected, according to prevailing custom, 
with the weekly portion. We have seen that this was recited either on 
the first or second Sabbath of the month Iyyar. 

3 The Shebuoth portion for the Babylonian Jews commenced with 
chapter xix. It can be proved that in Palestine it began with xx., since 
the Seder before extended from xix. 6-25. It is stated in the Talmud 
(2?. Nedarim, 38a) that the Palestinians must have divided Ex. xix. 9 
into three parts, since no reading could contain as many as twenty-one 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 437 

I have dealt with the Mechilta passages with this detail 
for the purpose of showing that many Midrashic state- 
ments imply, and at the same time prove that they are 
hased on a division of the Sedarim according to a trien- 
nial cycle. It follows from the reckoning, which is derived 
from tradition, that out of eight Sedarim given in the Mas- 
soretic divisions of the Pentateuch, ten Sabbath lessons 
were formed. We saw that this latter method of appor- 
tioning readings removed naturally difficulties which be- 
long to the development of the festival readings. It 
makes clear to us that the first occasion for the read- 
ing of portions on festivals which commemorate events 
which happened in the same holiday is derived from 
Exodus xii., xiii. and xix., and this mode of selection also 
reorganised other festival lessons. In the apportioning of 
the various successive Sedarim, we assign Exodus xxi. for 
the 7th Sivan, and xxii. 24, for the 14th ; this latter 
chapter, the Seder Ohm (Cap. vi.), also connects with the 
same date. For the Seder Olam remarks that Moses 
climbed Mount Sinai seven days after the Revelation. This 
event is narrated in the Biblical chapter in question read 
on the 14th of Sivan. We are next able to assign Ex. xxxiv. 
1 as the reading on the last Sabbath of the month Ab, 
with which opinion tradition is in accord {loc. cit), inas- 
much as it informs us that Moses went up Mount Sinai 
with the tablets of stone on the 29th of Ab, 1 which occur- 
rence is related in xxxiv. 1. Lev. i. falls on the last Sabbath 
in Elul; iv. 1 on the 1st of Tishri; v. 1 on the 2nd; vi. 12 
on the first Sabbath in Tishri ; viii. 1, on the Day of Atone- 
ment. I have here supplied the two festivals with lessons 
which are nowhere mentioned in the Eabbinical sources, 

verses. This division is only necessary if the portion, xix. 6-25, stands 
alone, which contains only twenty verses, whence it is clear that chapters 
xix. and xx. conld never have been read together. 

1 MS. Catalogue, Neubauer, No. 692, differs from this account by one day 
remarking nBT13 TFI&y 72 3N3 DISS'S D*jmK ~W HK^, which is 
only another computation based on the same text. 

438 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

yet which must be assigned to these festivals in the ordi- 
nary course of the triennial reading. We saw that those 
selections were recited on first and seventh days of Pesach 
and Shebuoth, which were reached on those festivals in the 
unbroken succession of Sedarim. This must also have been 
the case with the New Year and Day of Atonement. 
This view is confirmed in another quarter. The Mishna 
(Megilla iii. 6), says that those parts of the Torah that 
are read on Monday and Thursday must be repeated on 
the following Sabbath, since the duty is imposed on us by 
Leviticus xxiii. 44 to read every portion in its suitable 
time. This admonition evidently presumes that the 
continuous reading of the Law on successive Sabbaths 
would naturally assign the portion connected with a certain 
festival for that very occasion. This is undeniably proved 
in the case of the three days already mentioned, and con- 
sequently it must apply also to the Day of Atonement. 
It seems pretty clear that Leviticus viii. 1 to x. 7 must 
have been read on the Great Fast, since a Boraitha has 
shown the identity of the sacrifices offered on the Day 
of Atonement with those described in Leviticus ix. (B. 
Joma, 4a). Again, the Midrashic discussions demonstrate 
that the offering mentioned in this chapter atoned for the 
sins committed in connection with the Golden Calf, which 
another tradition {Seder Olam, ch. vi.) states were forgiven 
on the Day of Atonement. We have yet another proof 
that the portion was recited on the Feast in ancient times. 
The Mishna {Megilla iii. 4) establishes the following rule : 
" The course of the Torah readings should be interrupted 
on New Moon, Chanucca, Purim, fast days and the Day of 
Atonement." The question which naturally arises in 
connection with this enactment, and which is asked by 
all commentators, namely, Why is only one of the festi- 
vals mentioned? — cannot be easily answered. If all in- 
genious guesses are avoided, it follows simply that at the 
time when the regular Sabbath readings were introduced, 
those Sedarim were read on the festivals which fell to 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 439 

their share in the course of the ordinary reading. This 
applied also to the Day of Atonement, and it was only at 
a later date that Leviticus xvi. was substituted for Leviti- 
cus viii. 1. The origin of this change was probably due 
in the first instance to the fact that this portion was re- 
cited in the Temple by the High Priest (Joma vii. 1), and 
the festival itself is mentioned towards the finish. Whether 
the fact that the occurrence narrated in x. 7 is continued 
in xvi. 1 had anything to do with the choice of this por- 
tion cannot be determined. In regard to the apportioning 
of the other Sedarim, we only remark that Numbers was 
commenced on the second Sabbath of the month Shebat, 
and that the four following selections were so arranged 
that the last one was read on the Sabbath of the week in 
which the 7th of Adar fell. 

The third year of the cycle, as already stated, opened 
with Numbers vi. 22, and in a year when the 1st of 
Nissan fell on a Sunday, this portion would be delivered 
on the Sabbath before. Such a year it was when the 
events related in the Seder happened (Sifre and Midrash 
to the passage; Seder Olam vii.). This explains what 
otherwise is extremely surprising, namely, the Masora 
divides ch. vii., which describes one incident, at ver. 48, 
into two Sabbath portions, which at first sight seems 
unjustifiable. If, however, we assume that the 1st of 
Nissan fell on Sunday, and that vi. 22 was the lesson for 
the day before, then ver. 48, which begins with the 7th day, 
is appropriate for the 7th Nissan. In this way viii. 1 
would be read on the 14th of Nissan, and on the 15th, 
ix. 1, the portion which, describing as it does the Pesach 
festival, was peculiarly suitable to that day. According to 
the continuous series of the Sedarim, Numbers xv. would 
fall to the third Sabbath in Iyyar. This view is endorsed 
by tradition, since it declares {Sifre to xv. 32) that the 
Sabbath, which is described in this section as having been 
violated, was the second which the Israelites had spent 
in the desert. How does the author of this statement 

440 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

arrive at so exact a date ? From the circumstance that 
this Seder was the lesson for the third Sabbath. He 
infers, moreover, that this Sabbath was the 22nd Iyyar, 
from the reckoning adopted by the Mechilta (to Exodus 
xvi. 1), which dates as the loth of Iyyar, the first Sabbath 
which the Israelites solemnised in the wilderness (B. 
Baba Kama, 119«). The Talmud (Bab. Taanith, 30 b) makes 
a statement which is worth consideration in respect to the 
question when the Book of Numbers was finished. The 
reason is asked there, Why should the 15th of Ab be 
celebrated as a day of joy ? The answer given is that on 
this day permission was given to the members of the 
various tribes of Israel to intermarry with each other 
(Cp. J. Taanith, iv. 9; B. Baba Kama, 115). The Talmud 
has in mind Numbers xxxvi. and Judges xxi., in which 
passages this intermarriage is allowed. Thus this portion 
must have been the reading for the third Sabbath in Ab. 
More force is probably added to this explanation by the 
fact that Deuteronomy i. 3 mentions a date which (accord- 
ing to the counting of Tishri as the first month), would fall 
in EIul, the eleventh month, and this portion, therefore, 
would have been appropriately read on the Sabbath before 
1st Elul. From this it follows that the Decalogue was read 
either on the Sabbath before the New Year, or on this day 

We are only now in a position to explain an old tra- 
dition which ascribes a certain institution in regard to 
Torah reading to Ezra. In the Talmud (J. Megitta iv. 1) 
ten innovations are referred back to Ezra, among which is 
not to be found the one we are about to treat of. The 
reason for this will soon be apparent. A Boraitha (B. 
Meg. 316) says that Ezra enacted that the curses in 
Leviticus xxvi. and Deut. xxviii. should be read re- 
spectively before Shebuoth and Rosh Hashana. On the 
assumption that when these unusual readings were in- 
troduced, the regular triennial cycle of Sabbath por- 
tions was in vogue, it is absolutely impossible to place 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 441 

these two lessons on the two dates required. This 
forced Gratz 1 to the conclusion that there was a bien- 
nial cycle, for which, however, there is no other founda- 
tion. Just as the reading from the Pentateuch on the 
four special Sabbaths formed the first Sabbath lessons 
without implying the existence of regular readings, even 
so was it with these two instances. If they are of this 
age, the question arises, What was the historical occasion 
of the custom to read the curses on these fixed days ? 
According to the triennial cycle, as we have already seen, 
the Decalogue, Exod. xx., was read on Shebuoth, the same 
in Deut. v. on New Year, and just before both of these the 
curses were to be recited. Was there then any connection 
between the Decalogue and the curses ? Now, in olden 
times, it was not customary for the person called to read a 
portion in the Law to say the benediction at the close of 
his reading. In the Talmud (J. Meg. iii. 7) it is, however, 
stated that the blessing over the Torah must be said after 
the curses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. R. Joshua opposes 
this opinion, contending that the Torah blessing should 
accompany the Decalogue and the rrpa? in addition to 
the curses. We thus see that the curses and Decalogue 
were included under one category, which implies a rela- 
tionship between the two. We notice that the maledictions 
follow closely upon verse 4 in Deut. xxvii., which the Sama- 
ritans falsified in order to prove the holiness of their 
Temple ; yet they were not satisfied with this, but con- 
sidered the interpolated verse of such importance as 
to incorporate it as the tenth commandment in the 
Decalogue. Against this proceeding the sages were 
obliged to interpose as they did in respect to the festi- 
vals, inasmuch as they joined together the two passages 
which had been tampered with. This exposure of the 
falsification of the Samaritans had to be clearly brought 
out in reading Deut. xxvii. 12, where Mount Gerizim is 

1 Monatsschrift, 1869, p. 396. 

442 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

expressly named, and this purpose clearly appears in the 
utterances of the Mishna (Sota vi. 4, Cp. Tosefta vi. and J. 
Sota vii. 3). The Samaritans had also the custom of read- 
ing the Decalogue on Shebuoth and the New Year (vide 
Petermann, Rcise in Orient, p. 290). 

It seems, then, that this institution of reading the curses 
before these two festivals belongs to the time of the intro- 
duction of the festival readings, which have been attri- 
buted to Moses. Consequently then we would expect 
that tradition should ascribe to Moses also the establish- 
ment of the reading under discussion. This, however, is 
impossible, since it was probably still known to the Rabbis 
that the passages in question were directed against the 
Samaritans who first made their appearance in the time of 
Ezra. This institution, however, is not enumerated among 
those ascribed to Ezra, since it was considered to be much 
older. At any rate, we have here a confirmation of the 
opinion that Deut. v. was read on New Year. On the 
following Sabbath the Seder was vi. 4 to vii. 11, for 
which in the treatment of the Haphtarah we shall find a 
warranty in tradition. 

We have not yet spoken concerning the Sedarim of the 
first year of the triennial cycle. 

Following the Massoretic division, Genesis iii. 24 to 
iv. 26 falls to the first day of Passover, whereby we find the 
source of the Midrash cited in the Targum pseudo-Jona- 
than (to iv. 1), that Adam taught his sons how to bring 
sacrifices, and that they brought a Pesach offering (v. Pirke 
de R. Eliezer to the passage, and Yalkut). This was merely 
a remark made in connection with the reciting of this 
portion on first day of Pesach. 

On the sixth Sabbath counted from the 1st Nissan, 
falls the portion commencing with vi. 9, which fits in well 
with the date given in vii. 11. 

On the New Year, in this first year of the cycle, xxx. 22 
was reached as the Scriptural lesson of the day, which 
Seder commences with the words : " God remembered 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 443 

Kachel," and harmonises with the declaration of the Aggada 
that Rachel was remembered on New Year's day (B. Bosh 
Hash., 10b)} When once it was assumed that one of the 
matriarchs was remembered on this day by God in respect 
to the blessing of children, the idea broadened to include 
Rebecca and Sarah as well. Hence comes it that the por- 
tion describing how Sarah was visited by God was selected 
as the reading for New Year, i.e., Genesis xxi. The first 
book was finished in the middle of Shebat, and the second 
was begun on the third week . of the same month. It 
is worthy of remark, though perhaps only a mere coin- 
cidence, that the first book of the Pentateuch commenced 
on the 1st of Nissan, the fifth on the 1st of Elul, the 
third on the first of Tishri, the second and fourth on 
the 15th of Shebat, thus corresponding to the four 
dates given in the Mishna (Rosh Hash., i. 1) as first 
days of the year for various subordinate purposes, e.g. 
the tithing of animals and fruit. We shall soon return 
to this point. 

In the consideration of the divisions according to the 
triennial cycle, we have found the origin for the substitu- 
tion for the original festival readings out of Leviticus xxiii. 
of altogether new Sedarim, which have often no connec- 
tion with the holidays on which they are read. We have 
also discovered that the development of the institution 
is closely connected with the introduction of the regular 
Sabbath readings. In possession of this important infor- 
mation we can now still further follow the development of 

1 M. Schechter called my attention to the dates in the Midrash Tadshe, 
which agree with those in the Book of the Jubilees (v. Epstein JIVJIDlpD 
D*"11?Vn, p. iv. ff.) In the eighth chapter of this work the days are given 
on which the twelve tribal fathers were born ; it is evident that Levi 
and Joseph form the basis of this reckoning, perhaps indeed only the 
latter, the date of whose death alone is stated in the Pentateuch. If we 
notice the date given by the Midrash Tadshe as the birthday of Joseph, we 
find that it is the first of Tishri, the day on which,according to the triennial 
cycle, the Seder telling of his birth would fall. The birthday of Benja- 
min (Talkut, No. 162), on 11th Chesvan, follows from the reading of 
Genesis xxxv. on this day. 

444 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

the festival lessons. We have already pointed out the fact 
that the Mishna ordains the reading of Deut. xvi. 9 on 
Shebuoth {Megilla iii. 5). This has no foundation in the 
division of the Sedarim, and proceeds from the time when 
the festival portions had not yet been reorganised by the 
introduction of the regular Sabbath portions, at which 
period it was confidently believed that the opposition of 
the Samaritans and the Sadducees could be better met by 
these passages. 1 (Compare the remarks of the Sifre to the 
passage.) It seems that in many localities this reading was 
retained long after the introduction of Exod. xx., for the 
Tractate Sopherim (xvii. 6), which always takes the Pales- 
tinian Talmud into consideration, gives the Mishna un- 
altered and not the account in the Talmud {J. Megilla, 
iii. 7). This latter passage names expressly Exod. xx., the 
portion derived from the ordinary course of the Sabbath 
readings. The Tosefta {Megilla iv. 5) and the Boraitha 
{B. Megilla 31«) cite the same Seder. 2 The two Pesiktas 
have both pieces alternately, which proves the indefinite- 
ness of practice to have survived after the completion of 
the Palestinian Talmud. 

The same progress in the development is to be noticed 
in the lessons for the Day of Atonement and New 
Year; yet it seems that the portion Levit. xxiii. 23-25, 
containing only three verses, was taken and long adopted 
as the reading in many districts, since the Pesikta of K. 
Kahana knows only of this, and the Pesikta Eabbati bases 

1 The assumption of the Pisqe Tossaphoth to Megilla, No. 108, which 
is also adopted by Miiller (Tractate Sopherim p. 242), that Leviticus xxiii. 
was no longer read because it had already been used as the lesson for 
Passover is so far weak, inasmuch as originally only those verses of 
Levit. xxiii. were recited which were peculiar to the festivals on which 
tbey were to be read. It was not the whole chapter that was read on each 

8 Maimonides (n?3D niD/Tl xiii.) opines that Deut. xvi. was the 
chapter established by rule, and Exod. xix. that generally adopted. 
This is in accordance with the method usually followed by him in the 
whole section on the Torah reading. 

The Triennial Beading of the Law and Prophets. 445 

a homily on it near to one which has as its text Ge- 
nesis xxi. It might have been confidently expected that 
the Babylonian Jews, who have readings for both days 
of the festival, should have accepted those which have the 
guarantee of tradition for their selection, since, where 
possible, they invariably followed the practice of the Pales- 
tinians, instead of which, however, we find in the Tal- 
mud that the original lesson was altogether excluded, 
the section for the second day of New Year beiDg Gene- 
sis xxii. The fact that the Midrash (on the passage) shows 
that the event recorded in this portion happened on New 
Year's Day proves only that it knew of its recital on that 
occasion; it says nothing, however, to explain the actual 
introduction of the Seder. Let us consider the change 
which ensued in the Synagogue after the institution of 
regular sabbatical readings. 

Formerly there were few readings during the year, and 
ifc was necessary on every occasion to roll the Torah to its 
allotted place. Now, however, there were Scriptural lessons 
every Sabbath and Festival, and there was no necessity to 
look specially for the various portions for occasional festi- 
vals, since the Torah was read through continuously. Since 
now there was a new institution in progress of establish- 
ment, and the religious leaders and teachers wished to 
accustom the people to the innovation, they enunciated 
the following rule : That henceforward no columns of the 
Torah were to be skipped over in proceeding from one 
section to another (Megilla, iv. 5). That this was still ob- 
served in the time of the Amoraim in the third century 
is evidenced from the question of an Amora who asked 
(J. Megilla, iv. 5) what was to be done when the portion 
was too brief. He had probably in mind Leviticus xxiii. 
23-25, from which place perhaps many attempted to proceed 
direct to Numbers xxix. We are also told the reason on 
account of which the sages did not permit this rolling, so 
"that Israel should read through the Torah in continuous 
fashion." The Babylonian Jews also obeyed this rule, in- 

446 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

asmuch as having selected Gen. xxi. for the first day of 
the New Year, in order that they should not be under 
the necessity of rolling the Torah to another place, they 
chose Gen. xxii. as the reading for the second day. We 
shall notice again a similar proceeding on the part of the 
Babylonian Jews. When this Seder was adopted as the 
New Year portion, perhaps also by some Palestinian com- 
munities as well, a theory arose in connection with it 
that Abraham's attempted sacrifice of his son happened 
on this day. It need only be added that after the intro- 
duction of regular Sabbath readings the passages that 
were reached for the festivals in Genesis, -Leviticus, and 
Deuteronomy happened to be suitable for those occasions. 
In none of the three years, however, was there any re- 
ference made to Succoth in the chapters that were ap- 
portioned to it in the regular cycle. Hence there was a 
return to the original Seder for the day. 

This commenced according to the Tosefta {Megilla iv. 8) 
with xxiii. 33, which it is necessary to point out, since the 
Pesikta d'R Kahana starts its consideration of the festival 
portion with v. 40, though this commentary always begins 
its exposition with the first verse. If we recall to our 
memory the establishment of the festival Sedarim and their 
historical origin, we notice that the remarks of the Midrash 
apply to the verse which was the cause of contention be- 
tween the Samaritans and the Pharisees, and which there- 
fore required interpretation ; the festival reading, however, 
opened with an earlier verse. 1 

1 This explanation forms the basis of the remarkable passage ^1 *DJJ 
?X"IB" in the Targum pseudo-Jonathan, and in the Targum Yerushalmi 
on Leviticus xix. 16 and xxv. 15. This embellishment of the Targum is 
apparent also in Levit. xxii. 27, where in later times the Pesaoh Seder 
commenced ; in Numbers xxviii. 2, Deut. xvi. 1, in the beginning of the 
festival readings with which are connected the Midrashic expositions, as 
e.g., the homilies of the Pesikta (V. Rappoporb in Erech Millin, p. 169*)- 
It is also noticeable in Deut. xiv. 22, which as in the other instances cited 
formed the opening verse of the festival Seder only in later times. In the 
two first-mentioned quotations, in a similar fashion to the Pesikta, the 
embellishment of the Targum is not found at all to the opening verses, 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 447 

For the eighth day, which according to the Halacha is 
an independent festival, the Mishna does not assign any- 
special Seder, since this was included under the compre- 
hensive expression rvn:np3 2J"in nw bs "iNt»j (Meg. iii. 5), 
and therefore had, as its Scriptural lesson, Num. xxix. 35. 
Originally, as in seventh day of Pesach, either there was 
no lesson at all or the reading probably was taken from 
Leviticus xxiii., where the holiday is mentioned. When, 
however, Numbers xxix. was fixed for "TCnnn bin, the 
passage above quoted was set aside for the eighth day. 
It cannot be determined when it was that Deut. xvi. was 
apportioned to this festival, nor can its introduction be 
explained, since not only was no reference made to the 
holiday in question in this portion, but Tabernacles is also 
described here as a seven-day feast. 1 

We noticed above in the Mechilta that R. Eliezer dated 
the death of Moses on 7th of Shebat. If now our theory 
is the correct one, there must have been a completion of 
the Torah readings on this day. That this was really the 
case we shall shortly establish on the basis of many state- 
ments in the Midrash. Here it need only be remarked 
that Deut. xvi. — the assigning of which by tradition to 
mSB WOW bristles with difficulties — in accordance with a 
triennial division ending on 7th of Shebat, really falls on 
this feast, thus solving the problem satisfactorily. Since 

but commences with a later one, where there is some difficulty that re- 
quires smoothing over, or where some special remark is to be made. This 
explains also the statement of It. Chanina {Lev. Rabba, cap. iii.) that 
Leviticus ii. 3 formed the opening verse in a certain synagogue (S. Fried- 
man, Beth Talmud, III., p. 169), and the ten commandments, which, as the 
Petikta Jlabba shows, required individual exposition, have for the same 
reason ten times ^NIB" '» ^OJ?. 

1 The manner iD which the Boraitha (JB. Megilla, 31«) explains the 
passage "11331 D'pni D1XD 1133H ^3 ]innxn 31D DV is very remarkable. 
This forced and unintelligible interpretation arises from the fact that the 
author of this expression could not give a better reason for the dependence 
of the festival on this portion. He was bound to go to the sacrificial 
observances to help him in this matter. (Cf . Hammanhig, p. 71.) 

448 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

the Babylonian Jews required Sedarim for two days, and 
since, as already shown, no appropriate passage for Taber- 
nacles was derived from the triennial cycle, they were 
obliged to repeat the first day's reading on the second. 
This proves that they were not in the habit of rolling the 
Torah from place to place, since, had they wished, they 
might have turned to Deut. xvi., and recited that on 
the second day. They appointed Deut. xxxiii. as the 
portion for the additional (9th) day of the festival. Yet 
there is no Talmudical foundation for assuming that this 
section was selected for that occasion, because, indepen- 
dently of a purposed selection, the Torah was then in the 
regular course of the cycle brought to an end ; nor that 
in the time of the Talmud, mifi nn»27 was already con- 
nected with the finishing of the Law (v. Gratz, Monats- 
schrift, 1869, p. 394). The choice of this Seder is even now 
inexplicable to me. 

Having examined the series of festival readings, 
we can now devote our attention to the Sedarim of 
the four special Sabbaths. There is something, how- 
ever, to be said first about the series itself. The Mishna 
already lays down the rule (Megilla, iii. 4) that on Sab- 
bath, the first of Adar, or on the Sabbath immediately 
preceding it, Shekalim should be read ; on the Sabbath 
before Purim, Zachor ; on the following week, Para ; and 
on the Sabbath before the 1st Nissan, Hachodesh. The 
two Talmuds explain in full the arrangement of the four 
Parashas which were read between the last Sabbath in 
Shebat and the last in Adar, the number of Sabbaths in 
this interval varying in different years. The question, 
which we cannot suppress in face of this strict regulation, 
how does this series come about, and why are these four 
anomalous portions recited in the same month, and not in 
different months, we can answer very simply in accordance 
with the suggestions made above. 

The Sedarim of the year came to an end on the first 
Sabbath in Adar ; there were consequently four Sabbaths 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 449 

unprovided with portions, since the Torah was recom- 
menced on 1st Nissan. The four unusual Sedarim were 
therefore apportioned to these days. According to this 
view, Shekalim should he read on the second Sabbath of 
Adar, which is inconsistent with the Mishnaic ruling on 
the subject. Does this not also betoken development ? We 
understand how it is that the Parasha Hachodesh, which 
deals with the 1st Nissan, should have been read on the 
Sabbath before the New Moon, or on the New Moon itself, 
when this fell on the Sabbath. For in the second year of 
the cycle whose initiatory reading was this portion, we 
saw clearly that it was read on the second Sabbath before 
Passover. Further, it is conceivable that Zachor should be 
placed in immediate proximity to Purim, since both Zachor 
(Deut. xxv.) and Esther speak of artifices resorted to by 
Israel's enemies. (The Aggada that Haman sprang from 
the stock of the Amalekites had its origin in this juxta- 
position). How stands the matter with Para and Sheka- 
lim? In reference to the former, the Sifre (to Num. vii. 1) 
remarks that the Red Heifer was on the first occasion 
prepared on the 2nd Nissan, and in the Talmud (J. Meg, 
iii. 6) an Amora declares that the section dealing with this 
sacrifice must be read after Parasha Hachodesh. Hence it 
follows that there really existed a time when this formed 
the scriptural lesson for the first Sabbath in Nissan. At 
this period the regular Sabbath readings had not yet 
been introduced, and no obstacle stood in the way of 
reciting this portion on the first Sabbath in Nissan when 
Hachodesh had been read the Sabbath before. Now, how- 
ever, since in consequence of the innovation of regular 
readings, the Sabbaths in Nissan were supplied with Se- 
darim regulated according to the triennial cycle, the 
section describing the ceremony of the Red Cow had to be 
transposed before Hachodesh. The above-mentioned Amora 
explains that the dislocation in question was brought about 
in order that the Israelites might before Nissan have their 
vol. v. F F 

450 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

attention called to the laws concerning the purifying of 
the unclean. 

Let us now turn to Shekalim. We pointed out above 
that the controversy of the Sadducees in respect to the 
employment of the shekel collection lasted from the 1st 
to 8th Nissan, in commemoration of which controversy and 
consequent decision these days were to be observed as 
minor holidays. It is pretty evident, in the light of this 
fact, that Shekalim, at the time of its introduction, was 
read on the second Sabbath of Nissan, from which place 
it was afterwards removed, in consequence of its interfering 
with the regular Sabbath portions. The arrangement of 
the four extraordinary Sedarim would accordingly be 
Zachor, Para, Shekalim and Hachodesh respectively, for the 
second, third, and fourth Sabbaths in Adar and the first 
in Nissan. How, then, did the Mishna come to adopt its 
series, and how came it that the Parashas were placed two 
Sabbaths back ? In the Mishna (Shek i. 1) the fact is nar- 
rated that every year, on 1st Adar, people were reminded 
of their duty to contribute towards the Shekalim fund. 
Although, indeed, in the Palestinian Talmud this publi- 
cation is not identified with the reading of its appropriate 
Biblical section, we are justified in assuming that the mis- 
placement of Shekalim was due to the fact that it was 
read to realise the above-mentioned object. It would now 
be possible to assume, were it not expressly excluded in the 
Mishna (Megilla, iii. 4), that the regular Sabbath reading 
was interrupted, and the Seder, which had still to be 
recited, was assigned to one of the Sabbaths in Adar, 
which had not yet been endowed with a portion. We are 
thus foi-ced to the opinion that the reading of the Sedarim 
was brought to a conclusion on the last Sabbath before 
Adar, and that the four following Sabbaths were left free 
for the four Parashas. It is this way that Shekalim came to 
be apportioned to 1st Adar ; and, therefore, according to the 
order adopted, Hachodesh would be read about the middle 
of Adar. This stage in the development also clearly ap- 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 451 

pears in a controversy of the Tannaim, namely, a Boraitha 
says {B. Pessachim 6a), DTlp TOSH msbm ^tmm V^MW 
mram vw niais bwbm p ywaw pi dy» owbw nosn 
" Lectures are held on the laws concerning Passover thirty 
days before the festival ; R. Simeon b. Gamliel says two 
weeks before " (v. Muller Tractate Sopherim, p. 144). The 
real nature of this dispute can only adequately be gauged 
by noticing that, according to the first opinion (which alone 
is mentioned in the Tose/ta Meg. iv. 5), Hachodesh, which 
formed the basis of the discourse, was read within thirty 
days before the Passover, viz., on the Sabbath before the 
15th Adar, on the ground that the ordinary Sedarim came 
to an end on the second Sabbath of Shebat ; and, according 
to the view of Simeon b. Gamliel, it was read on the first 
of Nissan, on the assumption that the regular reading was 
finished about the 7th Adar. 

There was thus one partition of the Sedarim which 
brought the course to an end on the second Sabbath of 
Shebat. A confirmation of this theory is found in the 
fact that R. Eliezer's opinion that Moses died on the 7th of 
Shebat implies a conclusion of the Toi-ah about this time. 
Already in the period of the compilation of the Mishna the 
series was so arranged that the first of the four Parashas 
should be Shekalim, which being read about the 1st Adar, 
allowed for the proximity of Zachor to Purim, and the 
reciting of Hachodesh before the 1st of Nissan. On the 
first Sabbath in Nissan, according to the division generally 
adopted, and described above, the usual reading of the Law 
was recommenced. 

As regards the portions themselves read in the four 
extraordinary Sabbaths, they are not at all the portions 
that would have been reached in the regular Sabbath 
lessons, since these latter are of a much later date. The 
Babylonian Jews were not agreed as to the exact sec- 
tion of the Law which was to be read on the Sheka- 
lim Sabbath. We see that the oldest Midrashic compila- 
tions containing Halacha, the Mechilta, Sifra, and Sifre, 

F F 2 

452 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

make mention of neither the institution, nor of the Sedarim 
read on the four special Sabbaths. We can infer from this 
that with the destruction of Jerusalem not only did the 
controversy cease between the Sadducees and the Phari- 
sees, but the customs also which were the outcome of this 
strife, since they applied only to the Temple worship. 
The origin of the four Sabbaths, like many other facts, 
was thus forgotten, whilst the custom of reading the allot- 
ted portion was afterwards re-adopted, as a result of the 
tendency to incorporate in the ritual every memento of the 
Temple service. The Shekalim portion was not by any 
means exempt from this general oblivion. Kab, about 
210 C.E., when he returned to Babylon, heard a different 
Seder read there than in Palestine. He knew Numbers 
xxviii. 1 as the Shekalim Parasha. Samuel, on the other 
hand (B. Megilla,29b), gives Exod. xxx. 11, where the She- 
kalim are expressly mentioned. This latter view (loc. cit.) 
is supported by a Boraitha which, describing the section by 
its initial word, bears indisputable testimony to the fact 
that Ex. xxx. 11 was read on Shekalim. Reverting to the 
origin of the institution, we notice that in accordance with 
the quotation from Megillath Taanith given above, the 
Sadducean polemic raged about Numbers xxviii. 4. Con- 
sequently Rab's opinion on this point, in addition to its 
being trustworthy on account of his position as a pupil of 
the Palestinian school, receives considerable support from 
this fact. If we bear in mind, also, that in the portion 
named by Samuel no word is mentioned about the employ- 
ment of the Shekalim for the daily offering — the dispute 
concerning which really formed the occasion of the reading 
of Shekalim — it is clear that the Seder mentioned by 
Samuel was not the original one selected. It owed its 
introduction to the fact that the explicit allusion to the 
Shekalim in Ex. xxx. 11 was calculated to commemorate 
the old rite which had now fallen into disuse. Taking into 
account the Boraitha above quoted, this Seder must also 
have been read in Palestine. We must not forget as well 

The Triennial Beading of the Law and Prophets. 453 

that in this portion it is stated how the Shekalim were 
to be applied to the offerings (J. Shekalim, i. 1). Both 
Pesiktas, which like the Midrash are of Palestinian origin, 
only treat of this Parasha. There are not wanting, how- 
ever, some traces of the original reading. For both 
Pesiktas, after having dealt with the Sedarim of the four 
extraordinary Sabbaths, proceed to discuss a fifth, namely, 
Numbers xxviii. 1. It was generally accepted that this was 
provided in the event of New Moon of Nissan falling on a 
Sabbath. Friedmann (Pesikta Rabbati on this passage), 
however, has undeniably demonstrated that there is no 
warranty for this assumption, by proving that it was des- 
tined as a discourse for the first week of Nissan, for the 
controversy between the Pharisees and Sadducees had 
application to the rendering of this portion, and they were 
polemically engaged on this matter at the beginning of 
Nissan. If we add to this what was proved above, that 
originally this Parasha was recited on the first Sabbath in 
Nissan, it will become clear and intelligible to us how it 
was that in the Pesiktas the discussion of Num. xxviii. 1 
occurs just before the explanation of the portion read on 
the first day of Pesach. There is no difference of opinion 
in respect to the three other Sabbath Sedarim. The To- 
sefta (Meg. iv. 4), which merely mentions a reading for 
Shekalim without defining what chapter was to be read, 
apportions Exodus xii. for Hachodesh, Numbers xiv. for 
Para, and Deuteronomy xxv. 17 for Zachor. 

We now reach the third stage in the development of the 
public reading of the Law (see above, p. 427). This stage 
concerns the lessons for the middle days of festivals, New 
Moons, and ordinary Sabbaths, Of the changes in the last 
named readings I have already spoken ; there are no im- 
portant variations to be noticed in the lessons for the 
middle days of festivals and the New Moons. For 
rDID "TEian bin the Mishna selects Numbers xxix. 17-34, 
from which the appropriate portions are to be taken for 
the respective days. In the time of the Tannaim there 

454 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

were no Parashas for JTDS "TOIttn bin, just as there was none 
for the seventh day. Nor does the Palestinian Talmud 
assign any portions for these days, and hence it may he 
inferred that the reading during Pesach was at that time 
confined to the first day, and, of course, "TOian bin natP. 
Since, unlike Succoth, there were no successive Pentateuchal 
portions treating of Pesach, the Tosefta (Megilla, iv. 5), with 
a view to meeting this want, enacts that those readings 
should be selected for TJJian bin which deal with 
Pesach and which are found scattered throughout the 
Torah. This method of proceeding, which has no analogy, 
was suggested by the circumstance that on the second 
year of the cycle Exodus xiii. was reached on the Sab- 
bath during Pesach, and in the third year Numbers ix. 
These sections could very well be made into Parashas for 
"!E1Qn bin, since they both speak about Pesach. To these 
were added Exodus xxiii. and xxxiv., these four pieces being 
read on the four days, according to the order in which 
they occur in the Torah. It was first in Babylon — in which 
place the contents of the portion read was always taken 
into account — that it was arranged that Exodus xxxiv. 
should be selected for "TOinn bin row both on Pesach and 
Succoth. And for this reason — that the Sabbath is men- 
tioned there as well as the festival (B. Megilla, 31a). For 
the other days the portions cited remained unchanged (cp. 
Shibbole halleket, nDD, cap. 219). Numbers xxviii. 11 was 
the only Seder that could be chosen for the New Moon, for 
there is no other chapter in the Torah which could be ap- 
propriately taken as the lesson for this occasion. The ques- 
tion as to which was the initial verse of this portion was 
first raised in Babylon (B. Megilla, 216). There it is laid 
down that ten should be the least number of verses for a 
week-day reading, and twelve for Rosh Hachodesh. It was, 
therefore, resolved to commence the Parasha with verse 1. 
When New Moon fell on Sabbath, the special portion for 
this day alone was read in Palestine, the ordinary reading 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 455 

for that Sabbath being omitted. 1 The later teachers first 
combined both, and established that the special lesson for 
the day should be read after the regular portion for that 
Sabbath had been gone through. 

In the same passage two other Sedarim are enumerated 
for the minor holidays of Chanucca and Purim respectively, 
which belong to the last stage of the development. These 
feasts are reckoned among the days on which the serial 
reading of the Torah is to be interrupted in favour of the 
special festival portion. Since Chanucca is the Feast of 
Lights, a part of the Torah had to be sought which treated 
of the import of the same. This was found in Numbers 
viii. 1, where the lights and the kindling of them 
is described {Megilla, iii. 6 ; Sopherim, xx. 10). In vii. 84, 
however, we find the expression iron roan nKT, which 
formed a suitable beginning, not only on account of the 
occurrence of the words rr33n, but because of its applica- 
bility to the festival and its signification. Therefore did 
the Mishna select HWIM DttHD for the Chanucca reading. 
When this holiday was made equal to Pesach and Suc- 
coth in respect to its being provided with daily readings, 
the portion was begun at Numbers vii. 1, so that a different 
piece could be read every day. Since the Seder (Sabbath 
portion) opened with vi. 22, later authorities 2 {Halachoth 
Pesucoth, p. 132) made this also the initial verse of the 
Chanucca readings. The Tosefta does not apportion any 
Parasha to Chanucca. This fact, combined with what was 
remarked above, proves to us that Chanucca was not 
always considered as equal to a half-festival. There was 
probably a time when there was a Chanucca reading only 
on Sabbath, or perhaps also on the eighth day. 3 It was 

1 That the Mishna speaks of this, and not of the Haf tara, is clear from 
the fact that there is mentioned the Day of Atonement, where it can 
only be explained that the Sabbath portion lapses, and is substituted by 

* So also the MS. Catalogue Neubauer, No. 620, p. 79J. 

3 Vide Sopherim xx. 10, and the second discourse of both Pesiktas to 
Numbers vii. 54. 

456 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

only at a comparatively late period that an every-day read- 
ing was instituted for this feast (J. Megilla, iii. 6). It seems 
also that originally there was special reading for Purim 
only when it fell on Sabbath, and later on a portion was 
introduced for the week-day, for the Tosefta here also does 
not make mention of any Parasha. 

Which was the original Parasha may be gathered from 
the Mishna {Meg. iii. 4). The Mishna supposes a case where 
the 1st of Adar falls on Sabbath, on which day Shekalim 
would be read. There would thus be left four Sabbaths in 
this month, the 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th, and only three 
special portions. This circumstance made it necessary to con- 
sider one of these Sabbaths — here the first — as an ordinary 
Sabbath. Otherwise — and this as was decided above, is 
impossible — there would be an ordinary reading on the last 
Sabbath of the year. Thus it happened that Zachor was 
read on the 15th (Purim), no special lesson being assigned 
for a week-day Purim. When, however, it was observed 
that a portion treating of the Amalekites was read on 
Sabbath, which was at the same time Purim, a similar 
piece, namely, Exod. xvii. 8, was chosen for Purim should 
it fall on a week-day. 

We have still to mention among the extraordinary read- 
ings those in vogue on fast-days, to which the Mishna has 
allotted {Megilla, iii. 6) mbbpl rrD~0, i.e., Deuteronomy 
xxviii., or Leviticus xxvi. 

Before we proceed to investigate the reason for this 
remarkable selection, we notice that the Tosefta mentions 
only the 9th Ab, and quotes two opposing views as to 
which of two portions should be read, viz., Vision *6 dN, 1 
or Deuteronomy iv. 25. This limitation of the rule shows 
that originally the curses were read only on the 9th of Ab. 

1 The portion chosen by the Mishna, and called by it ni?7p1 ri13")3 
literally taken, would exclude the curses in Leviticus xxvi., -which are not 
preceded as in Deuteronomy by blessings, each of which is headed by the 
expression "|1"Q. From this we infer that J7DKTI 8? DS is incorrect, 
and stands for JJDBTI tih DS iTfVI, Deut. xxviii. 15. 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 457 

A confirmation of this theory is afforded by the contents 
of the chapter, which describes the sorrows of a siege, and 
the trials of an exile, such as that which befell Israel on 
the 9th of Ab. 

It was undoubtedly the contents of this piece which 
caused it to be chosen. The same in other words was the 
contents of the second section selected by the Tosefta, 
namely, Deuteronomy iv. 25. Since we saw that a new 
portion was never substituted for the original reading, un- 
less for some good reason, we must again here consider the 
Sabbath Sedarim. And, in fact, we notice that according 
to the division of R. Eliezer, who brings the Torah to a con- 
clusion on the 7th of Shebat, Deut. iv. 25 would actually 
be reached on the 9th Ab. We find in the Boraitha (B. 
Meg. 31«) a third portion assigned to the 9th of Ab, namely, 
Numbers xiv. 11, or 26, where no reference to the fast-day 
is apparent. If, however, we take into consideration the 
remark of the Mishna (Taanith, iv. 6) that on the 9th of 
Ab it was decided by God none of those Israelites who had 
journeyed through the wilderness should reach the Holy 
Land, we see that this choice was dependent on the Mishna. 
This is a proof that the reading in question was of very 
late introduction. 

Since we have now dealt with the extraordinary readings 
of the special days, we will return to the practice of 
reading the Law on Saturday afternoon, and Monday and 
Thursday mornings. The introduction of this rite is 
ascribed to Ezra. This reading was instituted on the two 
week-days with the object of giving instruction to the 
villagers who came to the town on these days. This, how- 
ever, cannot be the reason which caused the Sabbath after- 
noon lesson to be established, for no one came to town on 
the Sabbath. It probably originated with the desire to 
have a Torah portion with the usual Saturday afternoon 
discourse (v. Rappoport, Ercch Millin, article NmtaSM). 
Since the ordinary Sabbath Parasha had been read in the 
morning it was deemed advisable to commence in the after- 

458 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

noon with the verse immediately after the concluding pas- 
sage of the morning's portion. Although it was Sabbath 
yet the ordinary rules of the Sabbath Sedarim were not 
adopted in connection with the afternoon readings, but 
they were scheduled in this respect with the weekly 
readings. And for this reason: The arrangement of the 
Sabbath portions was already firmly established, and there 
would be an objection against interfering with it; and on 
this account it was determined not to read a whole Seder 
on Sabbath afternoon. 

This question, however, cannot be so summarily disposed 
of. The Mishna, indeed, says {Meg. iii. 6) that the portion 
read on the three above-mentioned occasions, should be 
repeated on the Sabbath following, for, otherwise, those 
portions, which ai'e peculiarly appropriate for certain days, 
would not actually form their Pentateuchal lessons. This 
gives colour to the opinion that there must have been 
many synagogues, or localities, where the custom was not 
adopted of repeating the weekly reading on the imme- 
diately succeeding Sabbath, and, in fact, the Tosefta {Meg. 
iv. 10) names R. Judah as an advocate of this view. How 
then did this Tanna read the Torah ? Did he adopt a 
triennial cycle ? Or was Gratz correct {Monatsschrift, 1869, 
p. 396) in assuming that E. Judah read through the Torah 
in two years ? Let us revert for a few minutes to the result 
of our previous considerations. We found that the cycle 
of the Torah portions was generally commenced on the 1st 
of Nissan, and this was necessary, so that several Sidras 
should fall on certain festivals. The statements in the 
Mechilta make it clear that this coincidence was suffi- 
ciently established by the ordinary division of the portions. 
It was further shown that the Torah was read continuously 
from the 1st of Nissan to the 7th of Adar, and that 
originally it was not necessary to look for other Parashas 
outside the usual Sabbath Sedarim. 

Since by taking into account the Sabbath and festival 
portions, there were at least fifty-four Sedarim in an 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 459 

ordinary year, the whole constitution of the division into 
Sedarim is shaken, for the Massora enumerates only one 
hundred and fifty-five for three years. If we consider 
more closely the festival portions, Exodus xii. 29, for the 
first day of Pesach ; xiii. IT, for the seventh ; xx. 1, for 
Shebuoth, in the second year of the cycle ; and Numbers 
ix. 1, for the first day of Pesach in the third year, we 
notice that these lessons do not start at the beginning of 
Sedarim, but are only parts of Sedarim which are more 
lengthy than others. This may be proved also to apply, 
without exception, to all the readings of the festivals, 
and the four extraordinary Sabbaths, and in this way 
all difficulty is removed. 

Thus, only one hundred and forty-one, or since there is a 
leap year among the three, one hundred and forty-six 
Sedarim would be required. The remaining nine, which 
the Massora gives in addition, were instituted — as many 
portions were in the annual cycle — for the purpose of 
supplying with lessons those Sabbaths which are added to 
certain years, and also to make it possible that the appro- 
priate passages should be assigned to the right occasions. 
When this surplus was not necessary, two Sedarim were 
read on one Sabbath, as was shown distinctly in the de- 
tailed account of the triennial cycle. We saw also, that 
it was afterwards introduced to read the ordinary Sabbath 
Seder together with the portion of the extraordinary 
Sabbath, so that one hundred and sixty-one Parashas were 
required for three years. In fact, Menachem Meiri, as 
mentioned above, enumerates just this number of Sedarim, 
the origin of which is now clear to us. The one hundred 
and sixty-seven of the Manuel (loc. tit.) are to be explained 
only as a provision for possible emergencies, as we found 
was the case with the one hundred and fifty-five of the 
Massora, especially since, through the introduction of the 
established Kalendar, every one of the years forming the 
triennial cycle could at one time or other be a leap year, 
three books of the Pentateuch had to always contain four 

460 The Jeicish Quarterly Review. 

more Sedarim than were otherwise strictly necessary. 
Genesis, which was begun on 1st Nissan, and Leviticus 
which was begun on 1st Elul, did not require this extra 
division, since the reading of both these books concluded on 
the 15th of Shebat, sc that they had no concern with the 
additional month of the leap year. Indeed, we notice that 
the Massora, Meiri, and the author of the Manuel, while 
differing considerably in their enumeration of the Sedarim 
in Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, are in perfect 
agreement as regards the computation of the Sedarim in 
Leviticus, and differ only in a slight degree in respect to 

It is possible to discover with some degree of probability 
the origin of the division of the Tractate Sopherim (loc. cit.) 
into one hundred and seventy -five parts — if this really ever 
existed in fact. I have already remarked that the Festival 
Parashas, and those selected for the four extraordinary 
Sabbaths, do not indeed form independent Sedarim. If 
now we enumerate these individually — Exod. xii. 1, xiii. 
17, xx. 1, xxx. 9 ; Lev. xvi. 1 ; Num. xix. 1, xxii. 26 ; 
Deut. xv. 19, xxv. 17 — and perhaps also the Chanucca 
and Purim Parashas, we have nine or eleven portions 
which might have been taken as special Sedarim. We 
have now to add to this the one hundred and sixty-six 
divisions which the author above mentioned perhaps 
arrived at, and in this [way we obtain the number one 
hundred and seventy-five. 1 

To be sure, the question can be asked, How could the 
author of the one hundred and seventy -five computation 
go so far as to consider the eight verses in Exod. xxx. 1-8, 
as a special Seder, since tradition always assigns twenty- 
one verses as a Sabbath portion ? This leads us to discuss 

1 Some colour is added to this view by the division according to the 
annual cycle, which arranges four of the enumerated passages as new 
weekly portions ; there are very few instances, namely, Gen. xviii. 1, 
xxvii. 28 ; Lev. vi. 1, etc., in which a weekly portion according to the 
annual cycle commences otherwise than with a new Massoretic Seder. 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 461 

the question as to what was the number of verses read on 
Sabbaths and Festivals in most ancient times. 

If we examine the division of the Sedarim given by 
the Massora which, in consequence of its having the smallest 
amount of portions contains the most lengthy Sedarim, we 
find the following readings — Gen. xii. 1-9, xxv. 1-18; 
Num. xi. 16-22, xxv. 1-9 ; and Deut. xxiii. 10-21 — which 
comprise less verses than tradition requires. Let us, how- 
ever, consider the traditional statements on the subject. 
The Mishna says {Meg. iv. 4) " Whoever reads out of 
the Law publicly, shall read no less than three verses ; 
to the translator, however, no more than one." (The 
Meturgeman expounded every verse in Aramaic to the 
people after it was given forth in Hebrew, because they 
no longer understood the original language of the Torah.) 
Further, we are told {Meg. iv. 1) that on Sabbath afternoon 
and Monday and Thursday mornings, three persons should 
be called to read the lesson from the Law ; on New Moon 
and iyi»n bin, four ; on festivals, five ; on the Day of 
Atonement, six ; and on Sabbath, seven. This arrange- 
ment may have been carried out in two ways. Either every 
person read the same three verses, or another three, in 
which latter case there must have been nine, twelve, fifteen, 
eighteen, and twenty-one verses respectively. Yet in the 
Massoretic division we meet with Sabbath Sedarim that 
contain only seven, eight, and nine verses. Are we not 
compelled to admit a development from the origin of the 
Sabbath Sedarim to its firm establishment in the ritual 
which is found in the Massora, and from ancient times, 
till the period when the Mishna enumerated rules for the 
same ? 

If we take into consideration one of the most extensive 
of the Sabbath readings — the verses in Leviticus xxvi. 
3-46 — verses 3-13 would fall, in lots of three verses, to the 
first three persons ; 14-46, which were not to be inter- 
rupted, to the fourth, and the Seder is thus brought to a 
finish ; so that a portion of such great length was not 

462 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

sufficient, for seven persons. This indeed it is difficult to 
assume. 1 Neither the Mishna nor the Tosefta mentions the 
twenty-one verses, nor do they say anything concerning 
the rule that the seven persons should each read three 
different verses. We find only the following enactment in 
the Tosefta {Meg. iv. 17): "No less than three verses should 
be recited; should, however, the Parasha contain four, the 
person called up must read all ; if five, then the first reads 
three, and leaves the remaining two to the next comer, who 
adds, as a third verse, the first of the following portion." 
The Talmud (J. Meg. 75a) mentions a Boraitha which 
speaks of the twenty-one verses. These, however, were 
applied to the Haftara, and not to the Pentateuchal lesson. 
What must be considered the original method of reading 
the Torah can only be derived from the oldest festival 
portions, which indeed formed the earliest of the Pentateuch 
Sedarim. If we examine for a few moments the discussion 
(J. Meg. iv. 3) as to whether six or seven 2 persons should 

1 This difficulty gave rise in the third century to the discussion as to 
where the Tochecha ended. In Yelamdenu we find : 3T nnDlfl p\T 1J? 

nsnj ny i»k pnv n nbbp ny i»k bnm&\ nmn ny idk (vide &w 

des Etudes Juives, vol. xiv., p. 94). We have already seen several times 
that Rav had a compendious code of rules for the reading of the Torah ; 
the Boraitha in Meg. 31a, which contains all the portions for the festivals 
and lyiDn Till, fathers the tradition for the same on him. We shall see 
that R. Jochanan had equal importance in Palestine. 

2 The Day of Atonement is considered in the Halacha as equal in every 
respect to the Sabbath, and not as a festival (Meg. i. 5). Yet, as we shall 
now see, this was not the reason which prompted the calling-up of seven 
persons on the Day of Atonement as on Sabbath. It is, however, probable 
that the afternoon reading on Atonement was occasioned from its being 
scheduled with Sabbath, which, as we have already noticed, had an after- 
noon portion. Neither the Mishna nor the Tosefta nor Palestinian Talmud 
know of its existence. The Boraitha (Meg. 31a) mentions it, together 
with its Haftara, which statement, like others, probably originated with 
Rab. The portion is Leviticus xviii., which was chosen, in spite of the 
utter want of connection between the festival and its contents, in obedi- 
ence to the rule quoted above, that the Torah should not be rolled on 
festivals from one place to another. In Babylon the seventeenth chapter 
was also read (perhaps even in Palestine as well, according to the Bo- 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 463 

be called up to the Torah on the Day of Atonement, and 
if we divide the original Atonement Seder (Lev. xxiii. 26 
— 32) into six or seven sections, we immediately see that 
the whole consists only of seven verses, the first containing 
the five words J-linrf? 7TOB b& 'n "OT1. 

Let us, in addition, take into consideration another Bo- 
raitha (B. Meg. 21b), which treats of the question whether 
this verse, which is merely an introductory formula, ought 
to be reckoned as part of the lesson from the Torah (cp. J. 
Meg. iv. 3, and J. Kethuboth ii. 10). From the fact that it 
is emphatically stated that this verse is to be reckoned 
amonc the others, it is clear that there was formerly a 
doubt on this matter ; and we see that this question must 
have applied also to the Seder for the Day of Atonement. 
If we count this verse with the others we have seven ; 
if not, six ; and now we understand what was the point 
of discussion, and what the basis of controversy. The 
general practice was to call up only six persons to the 
Torah, since there were only six verses which had any sub- 
stance in them. E. Akiba, however, in whose eyes, it is 
well-known, every word of the Torah was of equal import- 
ance (v. Bacher, Aggadader Tannaiten, I., p. 308), would not 
allow of any verse being esteemed of less value than the 
others, and on this account seven persons had, according 
to R. Akiba, to be called up to the Torah on the Day of 

raitha, if the remark there is not an interpolation, because it was impossible 
to skip any part of the text). But it cannot be decided whether it was 
read in the morning with ch. xvi., or in the afternoon with ch. xviii. 
Ilalachoth Eesuboth, p. 38, adds it to ch. xvi. 

The statement given in a portion of a MS. which probably belonged to 
the Siddur of Saadyah is worthy of notice (Neubauer, Catalogue, No. 
e. 25. p. 2), namely, that there existed in many Synagogues the practice 
of reading the law and Haftara to Neilah as well. The wording of this 
passage of the MS. runs as follows :— ^3p jnp> N")BD JUID' 1 HIT Dipi 
^a'S 1H D^l *TIN *»ip JVlOEn rmim r6*ja It was noticed that the 
fast days had a special afternoon portion, and since Yom Kippur was a fast 
day, a third reading was added to that adopted on account of its re- 
semblance to Sabbath. Saadyah, however, unreservedly rejects this opinion. 

464 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

Atonement. At any rate, it is to be inferred from 
this discussion that only one verse was read by each 
person. This is confirmed by the practice in vogue of 
dividing the reading of the Law on festivals amongst five 
individuals; for, originally, the Pesach Seder contained 
only five verses, namely, Leviticus xxiii. 4-8. The oldest 
Sabbath lessons were, we have already seen, those of the 
four extraordinary Sabbaths, the first of these being the 
Parasha recited on Sabbath Shekalim, namely, Numbers 
xxviii. 1-8. In this section the first verse is, like that of 
the Seder for the Day of Atonement, without substantial 
contents; so that only seven remain, whence arose the 
custom of calling up seven persons to the Torah every 
Sabbath. Already, then, in ancient times, there was in 
vogue the practice of having a different number of indi- 
viduals engaged in reading the Law on different occasions, 
namely, five, six, and seven. When, therefore, "TOlttn bin 
was provided with a portion, in order to make a distinction, 
it was determined to have four persons on those days, 
and finally, three on week days. The original basis for 
these numbers was no doubt soon forgotten and it was 
adopted that three verses should form the portion read by 
each individual. Thus it came about that twenty-one 
verses were fixed for the Sabbath Seder. Yet the Mishna 
preserves traces of the old usage. It was not allowed 
{Meg. iii. 1) that more or less persons should read the 
Torah on week-days and "TElian bin than was ordained. 
It was necessary to enunciate this rule, and to permit no 
exception, since these occasions were supplied with read- 
ings for the first time in the days of the Mishna, and the 
portions which the sages arranged for the same — such as 
Numbers xxviii. 11-15 (five verses) and xxix. 17-19 (three 
verses) — sometimes contained more and sometimes less 
verses than was the number of persons who had to be 
called up to the Torah. 

On Festivals and Sabbaths, however, the Mishna regis- 
tered no protest against the practice of having more than 

The Triennial Beading of the Lata and Prophets. 465 

five or seven persons to read the Torah respectively ; for 
the custom existed of old to read Lev. xxiii. 15-22 on 
Shebuoth, and 33-44 on Succoth, both of which comprised 
more than five verses, and, therefore, more than five per- 
sons were engaged in their recital. We can also consider 
as a relic of the usage that every person should read only 
one verse, the practice of the Meturgeman in the syna- 
gogue, who translated every verse individually. Having 
regard to the connection between the verses, this proceed- 
ing would never have been allowed, were it not that it was 
derived from an old custom of reading the verses one by 
one. We find also in the Talmud (B. Baba Kama, 82a) 
traces of the conviction that less verses were read at a 
previous period. For it is stated there that Ezra extended 
the week-day reading to include ten verses, whilst the Pro- 
phets contented themselves with nine verses. Since, then, 
seven verses were sufficient for Sabbath, we can now under- 
stand how it is that, amongst the Sedarim given by the Mas- 
sora, there are some containing only seven, eight, or nine 
verses. And, even when the rule was established to appor- 
tion three verses to every person, this custom of having 
short Sedarim did not altogether lapse ; for we see clearly, 
from the assigning (J. Meg. iii. 6) of Numbers xxviii. 11-15 
as the Sabbath New Moon Seder, even if verses 1-10 are 
added, there is only sufficient for two verses to each person. 
It was, indeed, equally unintelligible to the Amoraim how 
it was that people were satisfied with such a small Seder ; 
yet the practice in the synagogue bore testimony against 
that very rule. If a Sabbath Seder, on the other hand, 
happened to be lengthy, more than seven persons were 
occupied in its reading. This custom is testified to by 
E. Jochanan, who arranged the readings in Palestine, and 
R Joshua b. Levi (B. Meg., 32a), both of whom mention 
ten persons as a possible number for a Sabbath portion. 
On the basis of these considerations, we can now very 
easily answer the question how it was that the Penta- 
teuch was sufficient for a triennial reading for R. Jehudah, 

VOL. V. G G 

466 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

who would not allow the weekly portion to be repeated 
on the Sabbath. Every one of the three weekly lessons 
contained for him three verses, and the Sabbath lesson 
seven verses, so that a Seder need only have consisted 
of sixteen verses in order to have included all the weekly 
readings. The Talmudic rules, which enact that at least ten 
verses should form the week-day portion and twenty-one 
verses for Sabbath, are a product of a later age, at which 
period also the opinion was adopted, which the Mishna 
makes mention of, that the portion which was read during* 
the week was to be repeated on the Sabbath following (J. 
Taanith, iv. 3; B. Meg., 216); and even then these rules 
were only theoretically accepted in Palestine. They were 
not actually followed in synagogal practice, which view the 
Massoretic partition of the Sedarim fully endorses. The 
Babylonian Jews, who strictly adhered to the traditional 
rules emanating from Palestine, and made them the bases 
of further development, were the first to carry out these 
rules to the letter. As it has already been stated, it was 
Rab who, coming from the Palestinian schools, first 
brought into vogue in Babylonia the decisions of the 
Palestinian teachers. Perhaps it was he who reorganised 
the triennial reading of the Law, and arranged it accord- 
ing to an annual cycle; for we see that the final and 
permanent institution of the Pentateuch and Prophet 
portions for festivals and minor holidays is quoted in his 
name (B. Meg., 31a). 

It cannot be decided with certainty what caused him to 
make such a radical innovation. He might have been 
influenced by the idea that every command in the Torah 
applies to each year, and that, therefore, it was right and 
proper to read the same portions year by year on those 
days to which these passages are peculiarly appropriate. 
The principal question to be dealt with is, When was the 
annual cycle of the readings to be commenced ? We have 
already determined this from statements quoted above from 
the Mishna, but only in respect to a triennial cycle, to which 

The Triennial Reading of the Law and Prophets. 467 

they apply. How was it to be decided in accordance with 
the annual cycle adopted by the Babylonian Jews ? Tradi- 
tion informs us (B. Meg., 316) that Ezra introduced the 
custom of reading the curses in Lev. xxvi. before Shebuoth, 
and those in Deut. xxviii. before New Year. A date is 
thus given for these two Sedarim, and also, at the same 
time, for the beginning of the cycle. For since Deut. xxviii. 
had to be read before New Year, and the Palestinian 
festival portions were retained by the Babylonians, the 
Pentateuch could only have been brought to an end in 
Tishri ; hence arose the custom of commencing Genesis 
immediately after the concluding festival (rmn n.natP). 

On the basis of these three dates being assigned to their 
respective portions, 1 the Torah was divided into weekly 
Sedarim. There was as little deviation as possible from 
the Palestinian partition. Very few new Parashas were 
added, and even then they were founded on the Palestinian 
division. Thus Genesis xxiii. 1, was added where the New 
Year's portion ends ; and, as mentioned above, other 
Parashas were added at the point where the old festival 
readings and those read on the extraordinary Sabbaths 
began. Leap year necessitated a further division of the 
weekly portions. Since it was desired to maintain in its 
integrity the dates mentioned, it does not seem that the 
passages where the necessary division had to be made was 
absolutely determined on. For in the later Middle Ages 
we find a number of works which proffer different ac- 
counts on this matter. 

At the time when the rules for the week-day readings 
were established, the fundamental principle was laid down 
never to commence or finish a portion with words of 
ill omen. Thus early the portion Deut. xxxii., which is a 

1 It seems that the dates mentioned above, when the separate books 
were finished in Palestine, had a great influence over the division of the 
portions, since Leviticus, following the Boraitha, was concluded before 
Shebuoth, Numbers in the first week of Ab, Exodus about the 1st of 
Nissan, and Genesis during Shebat. 

GG 2 

468 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

chapter of trials and troubles, was divided, not only for 
the seven persons on Sabbath, but also on week-days {Trac- 
tate Sopherim xii. 8, 9 ; cp. Harkavy, Responsen der Gaonen, 
p. 96). 1 All, however, did not at once accept a similar divi- 
sion. A fragment {Catalog. Neubauer, Appendix No. e. 45, 
p. 6a) tells of a difference in the division into seven 
parts, as follows: — ^>lb 7V1 " NTO p HTip "lltM b«nt0 , »1 

dt« dv anp o ~iv\ ">bib p *mp -ins bwiun ms o»a 
Vpws "ot» ^a^Datp rrpnsNa )mp» nt&a jmp inn Vni 
dy-n dv amp "oi lass "osa ins pes apa "«b nn« pwsa 
Nia*»T yji dyn dv anp "O pi • lass -asa «m -win pws 
*11d iyi ntpa nwj p snip -ins N-np -ito VN-iaro nt&a 


Thus one verse was divided into two, in order to con- 
clude with words of good hope and cheer. 

There are yet many questions which arise in connection 
with the transformation of the triennial into the annual 
cycle. These, however, cannot be dealt with in the limits 
of this essay. I shall, however, return to many of them in 
a subsequent article treating of the Prophetical readings. 

Adolf Buchlbr. 

1 Cp. Jer. Meg ilia III. 7, and Bab. Bosh Hash. 31o. It is again Eab 
who says that this chapter has to be divided for the reading in the 
synagogue in the same way as the Levites did it in the Temple.